Best Backpacks for the Camino de Santiago in 2023

A good backpack and a comfortable pair of shoes are the two most important pieces of gear on your Camino de Santiago packing list.

Camino de Santiago Backpacks
Backpacks of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago waiting to check in to an Albergue.

It is good to buy these long in advance so that you can break your shoes for the Camino in, and train while wearing your backpack. You will be carrying all your belongings and will carry them most of the day, so you want a comfortable backpack of the right size. We have walked more than 4000 km on nine different Camino routes and have done many other treks in between. On these hikes, we used many different backpacks. Here I will tell you what we look out for when selecting a backpack for the Camino de Santiago. I also show you my favorite backpacks available to walk the Camino.

Our Top Backpack Choices for hiking the Camino de Santiago

What size Backpack do I need for the Camino de Santiago?

The inside of the backpack is measured in liters. A daypack is usually 10 to 20L (school bag size). A big backpack for traveling or backpacking/camping hikes is 60 or 70L.

Try to stick to a 30 to 40-L backpack for walking the Camino.

Since you do not have to carry camping or cooking gear and you can buy anything on the way, Pilgrims pack very light for the Camino. There are many different Camino de Santiago routes to walk, the distance will not influence the size backpack you choose. Laundry facilities are usually available and you can often ask for bedding.

A backpack with a size of 30-40 liters is most commonly used. This is basically a large daypack size.

A kilogram does make a big difference if you have to carry it all day and experienced pilgrims try to shave every gram. You can certainly use a bigger pack and simply not fill it all the way. You just have to be disciplined, because if you have more space you tend to pack more. The bigger pack will also weigh more. Osprey Kestrel 48 is a great, light pack if you want to buy a slightly bigger pack and not fill it all the way. Women often wear slightly smaller packs since smaller people have smaller clothes that do take up less space.

Backpack Length

The back length of your pack, top to bottom, should be right for proper load distribution on your back. Reputable backpacks are manufactured in different sizes based on torso length and are adjustable. You measure your back according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Gender sizes differ. Buy a backpack in an S, M or L size and adjust it to fit your exact length.

The best way to be sure a pack fits is by trying it on. Either buy in-store with the help of a professional or order through a store like Amazon where it is easy to return your purchase.

Womens Backpacks

Many manufacturers sell male and female versions of the same backpack. The shoulder straps of the women’s packs are usually more narrow. The hip placements and torso of the women’s pack are designed for a woman’s body and the colors are usually different.

Important Backpack Features

Airplane Carry-on Size

Flying with your backpack is great if it is a carry-on size and you do not have to check it in. This saves time and there is no chance of lost luggage on the way to your pilgrimage. There are slight differences, but standard domestic carry-on luggage size is 22″ x 14″ x 9″. We found most airlines not to be strict on this, so you should be allowed with a pack that is an inch or so more.

Pack Weight

The weight of the pack is something to consider, most modern backpacks are made from a strong, lightweight material such as nylon and weigh less than 2 kg.

Adjustable Straps

Easily adjustable hip, shoulder, and chest straps make it much easier to properly fit your pack. Comfortable, padded hip and shoulder straps make carrying the pack much easier and more convenient.

Top Loading vs. Panel Loading Packs

Top loading or panel loading is an important decision when choosing a backpack to hike the Camino de Santiago.

Top-loading Backpacks are classic hiking packs that you can only load from the top with a drawstring covered by a top lid. The disadvantage of these backpacks is that you have to unpack the whole backpack to get to something at the bottom. Today there are some great hybrid packs out there. Top-loading backpacks with side or front zip make it easy to reach anything.

Panel-loading Backpacks the main compartment opens up with a large zipper, almost like a suitcase opens up. Small-size backpacks (less than 40L) that are panel loaders mostly have a large zip on the top of the pack, opening it like a sea shell.

Panel loaders are easier to pack, but are heavier and more restrictive, top loaders tend to have better structure.

For hiking the Camino de Santiago we prefer top-loading packs, if you are interested in a feature-rich panel-loader with great suspension and ventilation, look at the Osprey Stratos 34.

Rain Cover

Rain cover is very important for the Camino de Santiago. I would strongly recommend you buy one if your pack of choice does not come with a rain cover. Check out the Unigear backpack rain cover 

Compartments & Pockets

Various compartments and pockets make the pack easier to use on the Camino. 

  • Top zippered compartment for easy access (lip balm, sunscreen, hat etc.) Easily accessible stuff pocket for jacket. Inside pocket for valuables.
  • Stretchy water bottle pocket, that you can reach without taking the pack off.
  • Trekking pole attachments.

Backpack Transport on the Camino

Many pilgrims walk the Camino de Santiago with a daypack and arrange luggage transfer for every stage. Several companies offer this service on the majority of the Camino routes. In this case, your backpack is not important and you can even use a suitcase. The Osprey Daylight Plus is a great daypack to use.

Osprey Stratos 36 – Sirrus 36 (women’s model)

  • What I love about the Osprey Stratos is – Comfort, Layout, and Access.
  • The main negative to consider – Not Ultra-light

Osprey Stratos 36 Men’s Hiking Backpack

Osprey Sirrus 36 Women’s Hiking Backpack

The Osprey Stratos 36 is an excellent hiking backpack that pretty much ticks every box for a Camino de Santiago backpack.

This 36-liter backpack weighs 3.4 lbs (1,5 kg). It is a top loader, (with a fixed top lid) with an internal aluminum frame, and exterior pockets. I love that the main compartment can be accessed from the top or through a side zipper. No need to unpack the whole backpack to find something!

It is not an ultra-light backpack because of the frame, but the mesh back panel in Osprey’s Airspeed Suspension system is nice to keep your back cooler on hot days and the extra padding is very comfortable.

  • accesses to the main compartment (top, bottom and side). 
  • Integrated rain cover
  • Internal Frame
  • Volume (L) – 36 liters
  • Weight – 3 lbs. 4.5 oz. (1.5 kg)
  • Adjustable Torso Length – Yes
  • Suspended Mesh Back Panel – Yes
  • Number of Exterior Pockets – 6 + main compartment
  • Two zippered hip-belt pockets
  • Stow-On-The-Go Trekking pole attachment
  • Internal Hydration Sleeve
  • Dimensions – 26.77 x 14.57 x 10.63 inches, should be able to fly as carry-on luggage

Osprey Talon (ultralight) – Tempest 30 (women’s model)

  • What I love about the Osprey Talon – Is its Ultra-light, Comfortable Fit.
  • The main negative to consider – No rain cover, Only Top Access

Osprey Talon 33 Men’s Hiking Backpack

Osprey Tempest 30 Women’s Hiking Backpack

The Osprey Talon is an ultra-light, frameless, top-loading backpack. If you are looking for a super light basic backpack that fits fantastic the Talon is a good option. Comfortable, very versatile, and durable, with great ventilation and plenty of external gear attachment capability this is a fantastic backpack for hiking the Camino de Santiago. The straps are well padded and the AirScape back panel helps for an excellent fit, comfort, and good ventilation. Adjustable, but available in two sizes. The Talon is a top loader with only top access, I prefer that a backpack has a side or front zipper for access to the main pocket, but with smaller packs, it is not crucial. The Talon 33 does not come with a rain cover, for the Camino, I would recommend buying a separate rain cover.

  • Access – Top
  • Frameless
  • Ultralight
  • Volume – S/M: 31 liters, L/XL: 33 liters
  • Weight – S/M: 2 lbs. 6.5 oz (1.17 kg), L/XL: 2 lbs. 10.7 oz. (995g)
  • Adjustable Torso Length – Yes
  • Internal padded laptop sleeve
  • Internal Hydration Sleeve
  • Number of Exterior Pockets – 7 + main compartment
  • Hipbelt Pockets – Yes
  • Dimensions – S/M: 24 x 12 x 10 inches, L/XL: 26 x 12 x 10 inches should be able to fly as carry-on luggage

Osprey Exos 38 – Osprey Eja 38 (Women’s Backpack)

  • What I love about the Osprey Talon – Is its Ultra-light, Comfortable Fit.
  • The main negative to consider – No rain cover, Only Top Access
  • The main consideration when comparing with the Talon Ultra light pack – extra 5 L of space.

Osprey Exos 38 Men’s Backpacking Backpack

Osprey Eja 38 Women’s Backpacking Backpack

The Osprey Exos is an extremely comfortable ultra-light toploading pack with an internal frame. The backpack has a removable lid allowing you to make it smaller\lighter. If you remove the lid there is a flapjack cover to keep your pack well closed. The ventilation is excellent on the back panel. The flat design allows for a stable carry. Comfortable foam shoulder straps covered in the mesh allow for very comfortable carry. The Talon 33 does not come with a rain cover, for the Camino, I would recommend buying a separate rain cover.

  • Access – Top
  • Internal Frame
  • Ultralight
  • Removable lid with flapjack cover
  • Weight – L/XL: 2 lbs.62 oz. (1.18 kg)
  • Adjustable Torso Length – Yes
  • Internal Hydration Sleeve
  • Hipbelt Pockets – Yes
  • Dimensions – S/M: 29 x 12 x 11 inches, should be able to fly as carry-on luggage

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